What It’s Really Like: I’m A College Student Athlete

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Kacy Johnson is a senior NCAA student athlete at the University of Hawaii where he’s on the swimming team. During school hours he studies finance and international business. In his free time you’ll him surfing, open water swimming, diving, paddling, and learning more every day.

I am a swimmer at that University of Hawaii at Manoa.

I am a representative for the athlete student body. I am a team captain for my sport. Yet, I am part of a team that would have been cut due to budget issues. Let me shed some light on how my life changed because of collegiate athletics.

In the wake of today’s collegiate tuition controversy, student athletes are often seen as a minority pitted against the student body.  Many question why athletics should be allowed so many scholarships and who decides their budget. And why do we get to run a deficit for the university?

My sport, unlike football, has only several full ride scholarships. These are shared amongst 30 men and are divided up based on academic and athletic achievement. TwitterLogo_#55aceeWe do not bring in any profit for the school, we pay for half of the expenses of any school that flies to compete against us at home, and our facility maintenance is extraordinarily high given two pools must be maintained.


Our swimming program has been in hot water with administration and the school for a while. But none of this stops our drive, perseverance, and tenacity to excel as individuals in the classroom and the pool.

For my team, we do our best to fundraise for our program. From holding multiple swim clinics for the public to volunteering and coordinating open water swims, we try to offset our costs any way we can. We clean our pool and assist in the upkeep of our weight room and locker rooms and cover tasks that may not be tended too as often as they should.  

Between training and school, we typically spend our time hibernating or eating.  Many would think that a student in Hawaii would be at the beach or climbing mountains and playing in waterfalls. The truth is, we are too tired and too focused with the tasks at hand to indulge in the beauty of the island.  


This past semester, the men’s team has posted one of the highest GPA’s in it’s history with a majority of individuals receiving 3.6’s and higher.  We take pride in what we do and push forward despite the lack of support in the stands.  We are representatives for our school and for our program.  Every photo and every decision is under scrutiny from the public and the NCAA, so living the traditional college life is not an option.

We chose this path on our own accord, following our passions and continuing to challenge ourselves.  No one told us we were promised scholarship money when we started our sport, we put the work in and have grown as people because of it.  Sports are not just something you watch on TV, they are a learning foundation for self-motivation and life lessons. TwitterLogo_#55acee

With all the challenges that face our team, whether it is funding, motivation, or talent, we strive to excel. This is not for attention, fame, or money. It is for the intrinsic value we have grown within ourselves for our sport through countless years of practice.

Standing out has never been easier. We got your back.

Campus Contributors are a select group of recognized leaders and experts in topics relating to college students.